Just a Little Closer


            Not long ago I introduced two possible ideas for my book cover – the book about the history of the airport in Rochester, NY. I got some feedback and, about three to one were in favor of the title, The ROC, Journey Thru the 21st Century. Thank you to all who responded.

            You’ve seen the front. Now, here’s what the back might look like. As I come closer to publishing, I welcome interested followers to become part of the process. Knowing it will be available soon (…not exactly sure how soon) you may want to be included on a list I’m developing to let you know the when’s and where’s of the book when it’s published. If so, please get back to me either by email (fjiekel@gmail.com) or message me on Facebook (Rick Iekel, Author) with name and contact information.

            Some like history. Some – well – they just don’t. My hope from the beginning has been to tell a story about how the airport grew and became what it is today. Some have asked for stories and, throughout, I’ve attempted to offer the airport’s story in the context of your own experiences. To some, the airport is somewhat irrelevant (They either don’t fly or maybe had a bad experience.) Others have experienced it in a variety of forms and ways – air shows, flying lessons, meeting an arriving passenger, traveling for business or pleasure, even (formerly) as evening’s entertainment at the Café’ Avion.

            Whether one has had a personal experience or not, this facility is an important part of the economy in the Greater Rochester Metropolitan Area. When the book comes out I hope you will check it out and seriously consider obtaining a copy. The more you know about how it (so to speak) ticks, the more you will appreciate that the Frederick Douglass, Greater Rochester International Airport is an important piece of the community. My favorite remark from one of the early reviewing readers is this:

            “Mr. Iekel puts a human face on an institution we might just take for granted.”

Got questions? ………I’ll try to get you an answer.

Got comments?……….can’t wait to hear from you

My Tribute to Black History Month

Do I have “white privilege”? Yes, I do. I suppose there are few middle-class white Americans who do not. That means I have a lot to learn about racism and discrimination.

          I was born in 1944 into a middle-class white family, lived the majority of my childhood in a rural area, and had little direct exposure to any race, culture or sub-culture other than “white middle class”. The area where I grew up in Western New York produced acres and acres of vegetables and fruit, much of which was harvested by migrant workers.

          What did I know about the migrant workers? Well, I knew that the nearby labor camp was a filthy, semi-dangerous place which I needed to pass (on my bike) quickly and quietly. I learned that the labor camp on the other side of town housed the Spanish-speaking migrants and there was a reason why those camps were on opposite sides of town. I attended grade school and, for the first couple months of each school year shared my desk seat with one of the migrant children. You see, as migrants, the families moved on when the picking was done. I felt bad for the kids that left and wondered where they would go to school next.

          Here’s what I didn’t understand. I did not understand why the people who owned the labor camp near my home didn’t maintain the property. They bought an old and shabby farm with several out buildings.The migrant families moved into each of those buildings based, I was told, on some kind of pecking order that I did not understand.  

          I didn’t understand how or why a kind lady in the neighborhood stopped in at the camp many evenings. My parents told me she was making sure the children were getting food and medicine. She sometimes bandaged up wounds from a knife fight. She brought healthy food and lots of love. At the end of one season a boy that I knew, Ike, decided not to move on and left the camp. He showed up at that nice lady’s house, asking to be allowed to live in their barn. The good lady and her husband took him in like their son. Ike graduated from high school, went into the service, learned to cook and ended up in a restaurant in New York City.

          I have known several people of color. First, there was “Ike”. Then, as an x-ray tech in the Air Force, I met and became friends with Zac, just back from Thailand. He was looking for friends and we became great friends until I was transferred to a new base. Some of my best workers at the airport where I spent my career were people of color. They were hard working, sincere and a joy to be with. When working as a consultant, my best customer was one of the City’s Neighborhood Associations. Its leader and I worked in close cooperation over several months. I once asked my daughter, a social worker, when I would not think about the fact that I was in a “strange” environment. She laughed and said, “You’ll get there. One day you will just not see the racial difference.”

          It’s the unintended things that I do and say that keep me on that “white-privileged” bad list. The times I say Negro, African-American or black person instead of “person-of-color” (Is that the currently correct term? If it changes, how will I know?); it’s the times I see a person of color walking down the street at 3:00 a.m. and watch (. . . but, would I not also watch a white man at that time of night?); it’s the times I am describing a scene and say, “. . . a black guy was . . . ”. For what purpose would I describe his skin color?  I really try to be aware, but due to my lifestyle I just don’t have that many opportunities to connect in a way that will move the world forward.

          I can do little to correct this country’s horrible practice of discriminating against anyone who doesn’t come from a white European cultural background. I can only do my part in the surroundings where I live and work. There, I promise to behave responsibly and to remain blind to race, creed or sexual orientation of the people I meet and engage. That’s my pledge and I’ll do my best to help reduce the negative effects of racism and discrimination.

[Inspired by a wonderful article entitled, “You’re My Inspiration” by Eric K. Ward, found in the American Educator, Spring 2022]